When I Thought I Was Out -- They Pull Me Back In
Common Sense from John DiMascio
What will DiMascio
write about now; asks my colleague Jeff Migliozzi. For a while, I was
actually struggling with that very question. I thought of writing a
seasonal fluff piece. You know, Watertown’s version
of “Over the River and Through Woods”. I figured, keep it
light; avoid controversy, and give everyone a much-needed break for the
Ah, but then the School Committee served up a great big softball that
had me scrambling to find my so-called “poison pen”. I’m
reminded of Michael Corleone’s famous line from The Godfather III: “Just
when I thought I was out -- they pull me back in.”
According to the
TAB, the School Committee voted to declare the Browne School surplus,
only after the Town Manager promised to replace the lost revenue from
Atrium AND pay for the relocation of School Department’s
Well the latter issue is easily addressed. The Police wanted the Browne
the site at any cost. Let them pay to move the maintenance shop to the
Phillips out of the police budget.
As for the lost Atrium
revenue: How does the School Committee figure that they ought to get
a dime? The School Superintendent and Members of the School Committee
all remained silent whilst the taxpayer got shafted. Now they want
the same taxpayers to replace the lucrative revenue stream they apathetically
surrendered. Sorry, but we’re already footing
the bill for a new police station. Backroom deal or not, we’re
not gonna take it! Let Paolillo/Hershey & Company sponsor a few more
bake sales. Better yet, allow the kids at the Lowell School have their
traditional CHRISTMAS Bazaar to help replace the lost revenue. And while
they’re at it, shut that bloody sign off in front of the Middle
School. A little less waste might help!
To make matters worse,
all of a sudden they’ve changed their
mind about the value of the Atrium lease. Mr. Paolillo now thinks the
net annual revenue from Atrium would have been roughly $200,000. According
to the figures the Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government put
forth, he is absolutely correct. However, the Administration’s
figures were very different. On the night the Council selected the Browne
School location, the Town Auditor told the Council the net annual income
from the Atrium would only be about $40,000.
Here is the break down provided by the Administration on the night
of the vote:
- - $ 55,250 operating expenses
- - $186,667 capital improvement reserve
- +$ 62,222 capital
- $40,023 Total net proceeds available to the School Dept.
For months, we at
the WCCSG questioned the artificially inflated operating expenses,
as well as the need for such an immense capital improvement reserve.
However, the Administration refused to accurately correct the numbers.
The Town Manager insisted that a long-term lease with the Atrium must
include a massive set aside to update the building. That was bad enough;
except the clever ciphering didn’t end there. The Administration
provided a “comparison” of a potential Atrium lease to the
Mitchell Proposal. It was said to be “apples to apples”,
yet the 50-year revenue projections were calculated using two different
rates. The Atrium revenue was dramatically understated, while the Mitchell
lease was made out to be “all that and a bag of chips”.
In response, the
WCCSG submitted two detailed written reports to the Council. We gave
copies to the School Committee Chair and the Superintendent. I personally
implored Tony Paolillo to scrutinize the figures, as we had already
done. I specifically warned him that the School Department’s
accounting practices would come back to haunt them. Case in point: The
School Department deducted $27,000 from the Atriums gross rent for maintenance
payroll. Well, Tony you can’t have it both ways. Now the School
Department has one less building to maintain. We expect a $27,000 cut
in the maintenance budget. Whose hours are you going to cut?
The chickens have
come home to roost. If the School Department continues to demand the
promised $200,000, they are implying the Administration misled the
taxpayers. If the Administration follows through on this promise, they
are admitting their failure to safeguard the taxpayers’ interest.
Let there be no mistake.
Now that the Atrium revenue has been lost, the Browne becomes a perfectly
acceptable site for the police station. That decision is a done deal.
As we move forward however, we must restore the people’s confidence
in their municipal government. Citizens overwhelmingly voted for change
in this recent election. Accountability is a great place to start.
Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government